The Cambridge Footlights returned last night to their home turf of the ADC, following a tour spanning four months that took them to venues both at home and abroad, including in London, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Despite this impressive schedule there were no signs of waning energy among the five. Bisping, Bopak, Channell, Fisher and Franklin are clearly all at the top of their game, and delivered a slick and polished performance.
Performance was clearly where their attention has been focused. Whilst many of the sketches were original and clever ideas, their execution from a writing perspective often missed the mark. One recurring issue related to timing, with many sketches initially getting laughs, and then losing them as they continued to push the joke past its natural conclusion. This also resulted in a lack of structure, making it difficult at times for the audience to know where they were being taken. The “Political Sketch” in particular was a fairly weak moment that ended up feeling more like lazy writing than a clever piece of self-referential humour.
There were, however, some genuinely funny moments. Alex Franklin’s Elon Musk gag was clearly an audience favourite. Its recurrence was one of the threads pulling the show together, which at times suffered from a noticeable disjointedness and a slight lack of coherence which, although in the nature of a sketch show, should be avoidable at this level.
Due credit ought to be afforded however to some of the wonderful moments of physical theatre, including a quite spectacular and fairly spotless dance introduction which really reflected the effort the group have put in over the past few months. Another sketch incorporating mime benefitted from the enthusiastic assistance of an audience member, one of the more successful moments of audience participation. It was during moments like these where the atmosphere of the room warmed towards the group and some of the awkwardness fell away, development which will hopefully continue throughout this final run.
While ‘Look Alive!’ might not be remembered as one of the funniest shows in the Footlights’ history, it was nonetheless a professional and entertaining production, and I can think of far less enjoyable ways to spend an evening during Cambridge freshers’ week.